SIHH 2019: Introducing the Ressence Type 2, a Mechanical Watch That Sets Itself

The e-Crown concept is now reality.
Ressence_Type 2A-3

Just a few days before SIHH opens its doors in Geneva, Belgian watchmaker Ressence has unveiled the production version of the Type 2 e-Crown, first unveiled last year as a concept watch.

The watch is a genuinely original fusion of traditional watchmaking and wearable tech, developed in collaboration with Tony Fadell, a Silicon Valley luminary best known as one of the creators of the Apple iPod.

Ressence_Type 2A-1

Save for a few minor tweaks, the Type 2 boasts the same features and technology as the original concept watch. It incorporates an electro-mechanical module on a conventional mechanical ETA calibre, creating a watch that is capable of keeping time without any manual assistance. In fact, the ETA 2892 inside is the same as found in the Ressence Type 3 and Type 5 watches, with the electronic module being responsible for setting the time.

Ressence_Type 2A-2

How it works

The initial reference time for the Type 2 needs only to be done manually once, via a swivelling tab on the rear of the case. After that, the electronic component of the e-Crown takes care of everything.

Comprised of 87 components on a circuit board, the e-Crown checks the time displayed on the time at least once a day and adjusts it if necessary. While the watch is not running, the e-Crown is dormant.

The e-Crown relies on tactile control: double tapping the crystal awakens the electronic system, at which point it automatically resets the time display to the correct time regardless of how much time has passed since it went to sleep. A single tap controls the function selector, which is displayed on the coloured sub-dial on the front.

Ressence_Type 2A-4

The function selector in turn controls the four modes of operation – two separate time zones, e-Crown mode, and pure mechanical mode – an increase of one over the three in the first e-Crown concept watch.

e-Crown mode means the watch is paired via Bluetooth with a dedicated smartphone app, which allows the dual time zones to be set from the phone. In contrast, mechanical mode has the e-Crown function is disabled, leaving the watch to run the good old-fashioned way – entirely mechanically.

While the self-winding movement powers the watch’s time-telling function, the e-Crown itself is powered by a combination of kinetic and solar energy. A capacitor captures kinetic energy produced by the movement of the automatic rotor, but if stored power falls too low, there’s a backup: 10 micro-shutters on the hour sub-dial open to let in light to recharge the photovoltaic cells beneath. The Type 2 is also accompanied by a with light charger.

Ressence_e-Crown Photovoltaic Shutters

Sleekly pebble-like

Measuring 45mm in diameter, the case of the Type 2 is black-coated titanium, as is the dial. For time display, it relies on the brand’s trademark nested set of rotating, satellite discs driven by planetary gears below the dial, the Ressence Orbital Convex System (ROCS).

Ressence_Type 2A

At 12mm in height, the Type 2 is notably slimmer than previous Ressence watches due to its second-generation ROCS, which has its discs mounted on jewel micro-bearings and the space between the discs having been reduced to 35 microns, or 0.035mm.

Price and Availability

The Ressence Type 2 is available in two dial colours: the Type 2A in anthracite, and the Type 2G in grey, both priced at SFr42,500 before taxes. That includes the light charger for the watch.


 

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SIHH 2019: A. Lange & Söhne Introduces the Lange 1 “25th Anniversary”

Stepped dial, hunter back, and just 250 pieces.
Lange 1 25th Anniversary watch 3

One of the rare handful of watches that have become modern day icons, the Lange 1 is literally the face of A. Lange & Söhne, so its 25th anniversary isn’t going to pass by quietly; the 20th anniversary in 2014 saw the introduction of both the Lange 1 Tourbillon Handwerkskunst and the Lange 1 anniversary his-and-hers sets. Lange has just announced the Lange 1 “25th Anniversary”, a classic, 38.5mm Lange 1 with several unusual tweaks inside and out.

The anniversary model has a two-tone, two-level silver dial with blue markings, a colour combination found on a handful of past Lange 1 models. But unique to the 25th anniversary edition: segments of the dial have been gently recessed and finished with a darker, frosted finish, highlighting the asymmetry of the dial.

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All of the markings on the dial are printed in dark blue, including the numerals of the date discs.

Lange 1 25th Anniversary watch 1

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The case is 18k white gold, 38.5mm in diameter, and contains the second generation Lange 1 movement, the L121.1.

The movement boasts a 72-hour power reserve, adjustable mass balance wheel, and an instantaneously changing date. But it also features an extra decorative touch: the hand-engraving on the balance cock incorporates a “25” in the style of Lange’s date display, with the lines of the engraving filled in dark blue lacquer. The balance cock itself is German silver, as is standard, and not solid gold, as has been done for other limited edition.

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Lange-1-25th-Anniversary-watch-5-1

The third element unique to the 25th anniversary edition is the hunter case back, something only found on a handful of Lange limited editions, including the 1815 Rattrapante Perpetual Calendar Handwerkskunst.

Lange-1-25th-Anniversary-watch-8

Constructed in a similar fashion to the hinged lid on the 1815 Handwerkskunst, the cover is made of 18k white gold, pivoted at 12 o’clock and opened with the tab at four o’clock.

It bears a hand-engraved rendering of Lange headquarters located at Ferdinand-Adolph-Lange-Platz 1 in Glashütte. Located at one corner of a T-junction, the building became the company’s in 1873, and though the premises were nationalised after the second world war, Lange Uhren regained it in the 1990s.

Lange 1 25th Anniversary watch 4

And flanking the engraving of the building are the names of Gunter Blümlein and Walter Lange, the two men crucial to the re-establishment of Lange in 1990.

Price and availability 

The Lange 1 “25th Anniversary” (ref. 191.066) is a limited edition of 250 watches, priced at €43,700 including 19% German tax. It will be available at boutiques and authorised retailers later in the year.

Notably, this is the only 25th anniversary model that is sold individually, with the others being sold in a 10-piece set.


Update April 16, 2019: The 10 anniversary watches will be sold as a set, except for this Lange 1.

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SIHH 2019: H. Moser & Cie. Unveils a Watch Covered in Live Plants

The Nature Watch, naturally.
Moser Nature Watch_Lifestyle

H. Moser & Cie. has once again unveiled an amusing timepiece – the grass-covered Nature Watch – trolling the rules governing the “Swiss made” label while delivering an environmental message. The company has made such provocative watches an annual affair, with the Nature Watch following the Apple Watch parody Swiss Alp Watch, the dairy-infused Swiss Mad Watch, and the explicit Swiss Icons Watch that took things a little too far and was retracted soon after.

Like its predecessors, the Nature Watch is once again intended as a headline grabber more than anything else. A unique piece that is not for sale, the Nature Watch is essentially a steel wristwatch adorned with greenery and wears like a wrist corsage, composed of “succulents, moss, mini Echeveria, cress, spiderwort and onion sets, with a dial in natural mineral stone and lichen from the Swiss Alps, and a strap made from grass.”

Moser Nature Watch 2

The press release continues, “It was created using plants native to Switzerland, grown in the gardens of our Schaffhausen-based Manufacture. Our entire team – watchmakers and non-watchmakers – had a hand in cultivating it.”

Excluding the plants, the case measures 42mm in diameter and 9.4mm in height. It houses the hand-wound HMC 327 caliber, which has a three-day power reserve and is equipped with a Straumann hairspring.

Moser Nature Watch 3

It may sound like a joke, but the watch itself is real, and the motivation behind it has substance. Not only does it emphasise the importance of being truly Swiss made, the watch is also a reminder of the importance of environment conservation.

According to Moser, the company is actually practicing what it preaches. The brand is committed to fulfilling the requirements of the Responsible Jewellery Council, using Fairtrade materials as often as possible, including Fairtrade gold for cases, as well as ensuring “zero-carbon footprint in manufacturing our timepieces by using more efficient methods and procedures, and by offsetting the residual footprint by buying carbon credits.”

And important, amidst all the preaching and a slightly gimmicky watch, Moser is actually doing some good. Because many ecological problems are often linked to the poor and disadvantaged, the brand has partnered with Room to Read, an NGO dedicated to improving literacy and gender equality in education by building schools and libraries, and distributing books.

In the coming months, Moser will reveal several unique timepieces that will be sold to benefit the charity, but is also doing more immediate good: it will donate 10 children’s books for every visitor to the H. Moser & Cie. booth at SIHH 2019. The Nature Watch will be on show at the booth.


 

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Interview: Jérôme Auzanneau, Chief of Leica’s Luxury Goods Division

On the philosophy and future of Leica watches.

Leica, the German maker of cult cameras – rangefinders specifically – recently announced its own entry into watchmaking. While the 114-year-old brand had collaborated with watch brands in the past, the L1 and L2 are the first, actual Leica watches.

The man tasked with heading this expansion is Jérôme Auzanneau, a Frenchman who spent half his life in Switzerland, including a 20-year stint at Audemars Piguet. Mr Auzanneau is now the managing director of Ernst Leitz Werkstätten, the luxury goods division of Leica. While watches are its first product, the diversification of Leica is expected to take the brand into “lifestyle and accessories”. That includes the Leica cafe in Bangkok that opened in September 2018.

Leica watch L1 and L2

The L1 and L2

But for now, watches are the primary focus. Appropriately enough, the watches are made in Germany, assembled at the newly established Ernst Leitz Werkstätten facility in Leica’s home town of Wetzlar, about an hour’s drive north of Frankfurt.

They are powered by movements produced by Lehmann Präzision, a German specialist in precision machinery and components that also makes its own watches. The styling is also German, with both watches designed by industrial designer Akhim Heine, who is responsible for several Leica cameras and binoculars.

Jérôme Auzanneau, Managing Director of Ernst Leitz Werkstätten with the Leica Watches

Jérôme Auzanneau at Leica’s flagship boutique in Singapore.

Mr Auzanneau was recently in Singapore for the reopening of Leica’s flagship boutique at the venerable Raffles Hotel, and I got the opportunity for an insightful discussion about Leica’s new venture.

The interview was edited for clarity and length.


How did the idea of producing a Leica watch come about?

It’s a really long story to be very honest. When [Leica owner Dr. Andreas Kaufmann] and his brothers invested in Leica to revive the company in 2004, he already had the idea of creating a Leica watch one day.

The reason is that the core value of the brand is optical excellence, which is what we’re all familiar with, but also its mechanical excellence – the way its products are made right from the beginning. There is a great amount of mechanical expertise behind them.

Photography is about capturing light within a system for a certain period of time; a watch is the instrument used to measure time. It was quite clear that the extension of the brand into something beyond photography could be a mechanical watch.

Then we had a number of options. We could have easily outsourced to someone in Switzerland, like what a number of other brands do, or take over a German company that is producing movements, be it still in existence or not. And the last option, the one we actually selected, is to get our own movement made. And so the Leica movement is a proprietary movement.

Was it challenging to find the right movement maker?

It was very challenging because we couldn’t find anything we could actually buy. If you were to take an ETA movement then you know where to go. It was a possible option but it was never our intention right from the beginning. Dr. Kaufmann wanted something different. [Our movement] is a completely new development.

Was it always the intention to keep it purely German-made?

Yes, the idea is to do it the German way. We wanted the watch to be hugely inspired by the Bauhaus philosophy.

That doesn’t exist as such; some people are kind of gimmicky or saying they subscribe to the Bauhaus philosophy just because they have super simple lines.

Bauhaus means much more than simple lines. Bauhaus is based on three principles. Firstly, there must be a function, a utility. Then form must follow function. The second principle is that it has to look nice. And the third one is that it has to be reproduced in series, reproduced by a machine. It is not a piece of art, but an artisanal piece. Although our production capacity is very limited, the watches are going to be produced in a series.

What is the production volume right now?

The production volume is currently at a few hundred per year but in the long term, we will ramp up to a few thousand per year. We are not here to challenge Rolex, this is a small-scale production. If you are interested in Leica cameras, you are part of a minority. The same goes for our watches.

German watches already have some of the most distinct and respected design codes, such as Nomos. Was it tough arriving at a German styling that was your own?

Yes, it was not that easy. In fashion, you have the “less is more” philosophy, but it’s much harder to under-design something than to over-design it. Over-designing is an easier job than to try and focus only on the essentials.

One of the core values of Leica is das Essenzielle. It means “the essential” – an exercise in taking out a lot of the fuss, getting rid of redundancies. And the designer of Leica watches is actually Achim Heine, the former designer of Leica cameras. I would say he was the best solution. No one else could design a Leica watch but him. Elements such as the patented push piece, for instance, were designed to be reminiscent of a Leica camera.

You have a pusher for the date, quite like fellow German watchmaker Lange.

It is a very convenient solution, not a revolution; it’s simply taking features and putting them together the Leica way.

You’ve also managed to do it “the Leica way” with the movement. It has an interesting finish. Can you explain the rationale behind it?

What’s interesting is the sandblasted finish on the base plate and bridges. You won’t find this in a high-end Swiss watch. We are not Swiss, so it doesn’t make sense to have the Cotes de Geneve decoration. It will be a bit weird.

The sandblasted finish is machine made but to bring some refinement, the edges of the bridges and main plate are highly polished, but not in the way the Swiss do the traditional chamfering.

It is a distinctive look we wanted to give our movements. It was interesting to push the machines one step further to make sure we have the sandblasted surface and mirror polish edges done perfectly. That’s the kind of finish a Leica product should have.

Leica L1 watch movement

Who would you say is the target audience for Leica watches?

First of all, it would be our Leica fans, because the sense of belonging that they have with Leica is so strong. And we would like to continue on this journey with them.

But at the same time, the connoisseurs of horology might be a bit bored by what the Swiss are doing and are looking for something more unique, more discreet, personal and well designed. Perhaps a fitting analogy would be a bespoke suit versus the mainstream brands that you can find anywhere.

What do you foresee as your biggest challenge?

My biggest challenge is a technical one. Leica stands for precision, accuracy, durability and the Leica watch has to tick all of those boxes. The biggest challenge is the mechanical construction of the movement and its assembly, which have to be up to Leica standards. The rest is about our relationship with our existing customers, and that’s really the easy bit of it.

What’s in store for the line?

There will be an L3 coming up, which will be a mechanical alarm watch. It will be based on the same movement, but with a complication that is quite unusual. Only a handful of brands are doing it right now.

Our watches are created with photographers in mind; they travel the world taking pictures. So the second-time zone and alarm are really apt functions for the traveller.

Will you be experimenting with other materials in future?

One material that you rarely see in watchmaking today is magnesium, but it’s something we use in our cameras. So that is a possibility.


 

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